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MD/MA Bioethics

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by spart39, Apr 27, 2007.

  1. spart39

    5+ Year Member

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    Hey Med Students,
    I'm think of applying for MD/MA Bioethics programs for the upcoming cycle. I know there are many schools that offer these programs, but I was wondering if anyone who is currently in a Bioethics program or who already completed one can comment on the value of such programs in general and/or the aspects of school specific programs. Thanks.
     
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  3. Critical Mass

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    Value? There is probably some academic value, i.e. you'd be a good candidate to teach ethics if you want to go that route.

    Tell us your career goals, and maybe we can give some advice one way or another.
     
  4. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Agree -- that seems more likely to open up academic routes than any other. If you don't see yourself teaching bioethics or writing about bioethics you will see no professional advantage in a degree in bioethics. And FWIW, based on various "what can I do with a JD in medicine" discussions I have seen, the MD folks with law degrees probably have a leg up on a masters in bioethics in terms of academic roles (I'm guessing), since at most places ethics courses are somewhat affiliated with law schools.
     
  5. spart39

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    Sorry I didn't clarify. I'm not looking for "how will this degree help me get a better residency." I was more interested in people's opinions on how a more complete education in bioethics would affect their experiences as a doctor.
     
  6. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Probably none. You don't need a degree to follow the big ethical issues, and most people have opinions on the major issues that impact practice regardless of whether they have ever taken a course. Your question is basically the equivalent as would a person in college who has taken a philosophy course see the world differently and have different life experiences. While there is probably the rare individual who has his eyes opened by such, for the most part the impact is nominal.
     
  7. Dakota

    Dakota Senior Member
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    It might be a leg up to get on a bioethics committee.
     
  8. JDovers

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    I can speak to this a little bit--I did my undergrad in Ethics and did some bioethics along the way. I even considered getting an MD/PhD with it.

    You don't need a masters. Unless you're really wanting to jump on your hospital's ethical committee or maybe, someday, end up in a think tank somewhere, you don't need this. MD just not enough? Looking for a useful masters? Grab an MPH. Looking for a degree that'll get you teaching? I think Law2Doc is right--most of the profs I saw teaching ethics at medschools didn't have ethics PhDs/MAs. Some had theology degrees (M.Div).

    If you are just really excited about the ethical issues--I was/am, so I understand---grab some casebooks. They're around and after reading some of the cases you begin to really get a feel for how all this works. If you want to read and think about the more theoretical stuff, grab Principles of Biomedical Ethics by Beauchamp. Not used at some medical schools for the ethics classes, but pretty standard for people who are writing/thinking about bio ethics for a living.

    So, bottom line, don't do the masters unless you have very specific career goals for it. Philosophy is an amateur sport, you don't need a degree to think about these things. Jump right in.
     
  9. Critical Mass

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    Now that is a tough one. I may be assuming too much, but are all of the bioethics classes taught before the clinical MD years? If so, then I would have a tough time believing that the additional education would affect experiences as a doctor.

    The reason that I say this is because I honestly feel that students in the preclinical years rarely get much of a taste for real medicine, and I think that the clinical years and residency will be the most shaping determinant of a doctor's behavior by a long shot.

    Now there may be great bioethics programs out there that give students a broad exposure to the legal and business aspects of running a practice (which is where most of the ethical considerations exist), but I think that students in general are more likely to look at additional education as a return-on-investment sort of issue.

    In other words, the time and money cost of adding an additional degree to an MD oftentimes does not yield a substantial return, and many feel that medical school is already too expensive (especially when one considers the time/dedication required, not just the cash) to merit more didactic classwork.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that my school doesn't have one of these combined degree programs; but I also don't think that they would have significant enough participation to merit one.
     
  10. stargirl50

    stargirl50 Member
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    You can always go back and do the MA later if you decide that it would be beneficial.
     
  11. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    This is a pre-med/pre-medical school issue and therefore I am moving this thread to Pre-Allo. Allopathic medical students can read and respond to this thread there.
     
  12. philosopherdoc

    philosopherdoc Mixed up medical student
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    I'm a little disappointed in the lack of support for the additional education in ethics. The ethical problems associated with medicine are only becoming more and more complicated and as such it is often difficult for someone to deal with the really difficult issues without advanced training in the field.

    Bottom line, any class that you take is likely to impact your education in some way or another. The problem with philosophy/ethics classes is that often the result isn't as direct as others. For instance, if you want to learn how to treat the cardiovascular system, well they have a class for that. However taking a philosophy class educates you not in treating diseases, but rather by addressing problems that aren't as easily answered as that of science. That is the reason philosophy is such a difficult field, it deals with more subject matter than science does (and also probably why it doesn't receive as much credit as well, the scientific method works, but not for everything!). If nothing else you will learn more analysis and critical thinking, which is different than that involved in science classes. I have heard many medical school are interested in having students do this, and will make it easier for them than you would believe (i.e. give you money to do it).

    In general, if you wish to do excellent philosophy you need advanced training. I'm a little disappointed with JDovers saying it is an amateurish sport; if you really want to impact the field it takes a lot of work. It is only considered amateurish because there are many "coffee shop" philosophers. It's a tough field, and to do it well you need considerable education and mentoring by those who have been there. Undergraduate training starts one off on the field of critical thinking, but graduate studies helps one become an active contributer to the field.

    Bioethics more than others seems to attract a lot of half-thought up ideas and opinions than other fields due to its very personal nature. I guess it boils down to how you think you can impact the field of medicine, which is in dire need of more physicians helping out in ethical situations. If you want to do it, it will be a great service to the field!
     
  13. spart39

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    I really appreciate the responses everyone is giving. It must be a rare choice for med students since no one actually part of a program has responded yet. Bioethics is something that has really interested me and whether I choose an actual masters program or not I'll definitely still pursue the topic. I agree that Bioethics is certainly something that one could educate themselves in and gain a great understanding without a degree program, but it does seem to me like philosopherdoc mentioned, that not enough med students look deep enough into the ethical issues, but instead are content with just the opinions they have formulated. I don't have any plans in the future for an academic career, but nonetheless I have the feeling that a deeper understanding of ethical issues may be invaluable in medicine.

    Looking more into the actual programs, Loyola seems to have a pretty interesting setup where the program is entirely online with readings and discussions done in forums.

    Thanks, I'm looking forward to more people's opinions.
     
  14. Bored_Student

    Bored_Student New Member
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    agreed. i too was a little put off by JDovers' characterization of philosophy as an amateur sport. in analytic and continental philosophy, this is most certainly not true. if you want a job in academia, you need a Ph.D., and it is no walk in the park at all to get one. i think philosopherdoc is correct in that there are lots of coffee shop philosophers and that really waters down the rigor of philosophy as a field in the minds of some. its easier for an average joe to throw in his own two cents on many issues in philosophy, including bioethics, than in a science because philosophical issues appear more accessible at first glance and also just because everyone has an opinion about abortion in a way that they dont about RNA interference. however, to really be able to contribute to the field requires a lot of training.

    i think anotehr thing that makes philosophical training seem less important in the eyes of some, and perhaps this is what JDovers meant, was that you dont always need a Ph.D. in philosophy to work in bioethics the way you need one to work in analytic/continental philosophy. many M.D.s work in bioethics but that is due to a methodological divide in bioethics, not the fact that philosophy is an amateur sport. bioethics is a young field, and there are those that consider it a branch of analytic philosophy and those who don't, and both types of people are trying to contribute to the field. also, because philosophy and science overlap as disciplines, the fact that certain fields of philosophy, by which i mean almost exclusively philosophy of science, are partially populated by scientists is nothign new. einstein, schrodinger, and stephen jay gould come to mind.

    so i guess what im getting at is that JDovers is right in the fact that you dont necessarily need a MA or Ph.D. in philosophy or bioethics or whatever to get into the field. however, that is very much due to the interdisciplinary nature of bioethics and the methodological divide within it. everyone contributing to the field in a meaningful way is able to think critically and either holds expertise in analytic philosophy and considerable knowledge in the pertinent science, or vice versa.
     

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